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Insoluble Problems

Does thinking create problems that thinking cannot solve?

Psychologically speaking, that is.

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To see that maybe we should look at what a solution is?

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Can thinking solve any problem at all? Or is it just an instrument which provides information/knowledge which might contribute in solving a problem? But to really solve a problem, something else is needed?

Wouldn’t a solution of a problem imply an ending of it ?
So, substituting ‘ending ‘for ‘solving’
( or end for solve) would it alter the original question posed by Dev?

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Perhaps if there was an example of a particular psychological problem, one could test it out for onself… regarding whether that problem could be solved ( or ended) by thinking or not ?

There is a famous quotation attributed to Einstein (variations of which appear in his letters) which argues along similar lines:

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

It is interesting to note that Einstein’s original intention in saying this came in response to the massive power that had been unleashed through the invention of atomic weapons. Einstein was saying that the nationalism and militarism which motivated the discovery of atomic weaponry were a kind of thinking that needed to be superseded in order to live peacefully in a world of atomic weapons. - Today one might say the same thing about the thinking that created climate change.

Psychologically speaking, the the atom bomb (“atom” means unbreakable, uncuttable) that our thinking has created is the ego, the I, the me: this is the core of all nationalism, militarism, war and strife in the world.

But to attempt to solve the problems of the ego with the same thinking that created it in the first place is to invite impossibilities. How does the ego resolve the problems that it itself is the cause of? How does thought dissolve thought?

The question then is: is there an approach that is not based on thought or thinking (with its implicit egotism)? Is there a tool to which we have access, which is not the outcome of thinking - which is not thought?

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Before looking to solution, do we not need to first establish - absolutely, beyond a shadow of doubt - that thinking itself is indeed the originator of the problems it is now banging its head against? Our proclivity for being okay with guesswork may the root cause of all psychological problems.

To be certain, must we not turn our study to thinking itself, follow its every movement - without obviously, as @James has pointed out, using thinking, any preconceived notion. Allow thinking to tell us what it is, rather that we telling it. Easier said than done, but logically nothing else makes sense.

Right - this is the question to ask. Can we be clear for ourselves that thinking, thought, is the real source of the problems we face - both in the world, and in ourselves?

If we can be clear on that, then only we can meaningfully ask if there are any alternative approaches.

Wisdom first. Then it can use thought if needed.


Why does thinking create problems at all? Is not that the question? Which implies that we have to look and examine thinking first to understand what it does and what it is. Can we do that together?

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@dev We have examined thinking, and keep re-examining it to reach the same view, which is its limitation. Thinking has created many problems in us and the world due to our focus on it. Is this invitation aimed at focusing on it? or for it to be put in a holistic perspective with the whole of this organism?

Ending for solving sounds like an interesting take at this question. Ending thought? What would bring about this ending? And, are we trying to end thinking, or ending its mischief?
@James We have cleared the ‘why’ many times and I think we are also clear on the fact of having no ‘How’ for this ending. Probably its the choice of words only but

A tool cannot be, because thought is what’s going to choose it as so, calling it a tool whatever it is.

@ErikProchnow If we are, all of us here, clear on that, what else is left there to ask?

Do we really understand thinking? Do we see its nature?


Reading many posts… what is very apparent is ‘confusion’. Is that apparent to all? If so, one could look at the cause or causes of confusion.
If it’s not seen that there is confusion, it may be unlikely to clearly address any of the diverse questions and statements that are being made.
If things follow the same pattern however… won’t this question regarding the very obvious surface level of confusion… result in yet more very diverse scattered questions and statements … simply providing more and more overall pictures of confusion and/ or conflict.
Is it possible to see the cause and nature of confusion ? If I can get to the point of saying nothing other than ‘I don’t know’ maybe something new may arise.

I don’t know if I would call it confusion (for me personally). What I see is that I want to tackle this question in a different (or a specific) way than the other. So my input is to clear out what I see about this. Not to be rejected or accepted.

I see a pattern here and in most of us, including myself, that each tackles the question from where they are on their path of understanding. I personally see that my input could or is creating more confusion than clarity. So, I am saying, please don’t accept or reject it.
Is it possible to look at all of these entries as a whole and see what happens in me? All these entries could be the thoughts of one, and all these questions could be looked at as the problems which the original question addressed

Ayham, if you don’t mind my pointing out, one of the patterns I’ve noticed is that you seem to actively resist other people’s questions, and yet get upset if people don’t understand or accept your own questions. Dev’s initial question was

Your first answer was to focus on “solutions”, when the question itself was highlighting the problems we inevitably face when attempting any solution from the ground of thinking. So Dev’s question was to focus on the problematic nature of thinking itself, to see if it is possible for us to see it more clearly. But you still reject his question.

One of the reasons for your resistance is perhaps that - in another thread - you said that you had tried to end thinking and had not been able to, and so have (perhaps prematurely, based on your own limited experience) concluded that it cannot be done. You see, this alone will be a barrier to any real investigation of thought, because you have already concluded that thought is fundamental to the human mind - which means that, for you, questioning thought can only be an abstract exercise. But your experience - and so the assumption drawn from your conclusion of that experience - may be mistaken.

K spent the greater part of his teaching life asking whether thought or thinking is the real root of the multiple problems we face, so it is not a trivial question to ask. The reason why humanity is so beset by all kinds of crises is in large part due to our seeming incapacity to see the true limitations of thought, which is why it is still a relevant question for us to ask.

And each time we ask a question, we are asking it afresh, anew. We do not compare with the past, we look at it now. Are we able to see or perceive the limitations of thought today?

When I ask a question, is it based on what I know, or, on what I don’t know?
‘My’ knowledge will always be different from your particular knowledge… although the causes and root may be the same.
So, while I am holding on to ‘my’ knowledge… even while claiming to be examining that of another , there will always be division between one another… division also being confusion and conflict… like the ‘House of Babel’ I think it’s called… all speaking in different ‘languages’ … our knowledge , our images. That is what is currently’in common’ . Is that a ‘fact’?

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One of the reasons that thinking creates problems is that it takes one small slice of reality - and not even reality, but an abstraction drawn from something that has been perceived through the senses - and believes that small slice of abstraction to equal the whole.

This small slice may be my memory of yesterday, for example. And based on what I remember took place yesterday, I orient my actions towards today and tomorrow. But my memory of yesterday is very, very, very limited - and, furthermore, it is only my fragmentary imagination of what took place yesterday, which is inevitably full of prejudices, partialities, emotional colourings - and so to project this yesterday onto tomorrow or today must cause confusion, mistakes, inaccuracies.

Our thinking does this with each other, with ourselves, and with the world at large - meaning that we consistently misrepresent ourselves, the world, and others, with all the problems that follow from this.

Dear James, I have the feeling that your answer is not digging deep enough. Would you agree that thinking is always - no matter if it deals with psychological or physical issues - about something? Thinking is only a response to something which exists, happens and which we percieve through our senses. To that perception we answer with thinking, which is only based on memory and knowledge. Thinking then creates an image, a description, an abstraction of what we percieved. Let us call that reality. So in that process of thinking we actually create a division - I am using that word in a neutral way. Without thinking there is only reality, which we might percieve truely or not. With thinking there is reality and also our image, astraction about it. Suddenly there are two. The original and the image. For finding my way home after work that is necessary. If I do not know where I live and have an image about that way home I will not get there. But even here there are two: The real way home which I can only drive in the moment and my image about it which is based on memory. If the image becomes more important than the actual way and my perception about it in the moment than a problem will arise in form of anger, stress and even physical danger etc. Because my image for example does not include the trafic jam that happens right now. So thinking creates duality. Always. I am just stating it without judging. That is neither good nor bad. It is just a fact. As long as we see, that the content of thinking never is the real, the actual there will be no problem. Then we see thinking and its content as what they are actually right now. And then the real, the actual is what is, right now. But if the image becomes more important and therefore thinking, the problems start, because the image is never the real and actually it only exists because there is the real. I can only think about myself if I physically exist and if memory about myself and my experiences exist. Would you also agree that it is thinking itself that gives itself an importance that it does not have? I mean, that thinking thinks about itself and forms an astraction about itself which is the self, the I? If so, two questions arise to me: Why does thinking think about itself and forms an image about itself? And can thinking be the “instrument” to realize what it does? I have a strong feeling that we have to dig in there if we want to understand thinking. Best wishes, Erik

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Erik - I agree (although I’m not sure that it’s a case of “deeper” or “shallower”: we are just exploring, right?) You are putting it in your own words, but I’m in complete agreement when you say that

That is, thinking takes up what has been perceived or experienced through the senses, and makes an abstraction of what it perceives: this is the duplicate copy, an attempted facsimile of experience by thought as memory, which is nevertheless totally different from the original percept (in the same way that a map is different from the actual environment it traces).

For purely functional activities, this is not a major problem. After all, this is why thought has evolved - to be a practical extension of the senses to help us survive and thrive. However, if the map is mistaken for the environment (which, in religious language, is a kind of idolatry), then a significant error has crept into our experience of the world (or what in Indian philosophy they call “avidya” - literally not-seeing). When there is this not-seeing, then we become insensitive, incoherent, contradictory and confusing.

That is, as you say,

My image of you is not who you are; my image of my nation is not the people who actually populate that geographical generalisation; my image of god, truth or reality is not reality; etc.

And this also applies inwardly: my image of myself is not what I actually am - is not what is. This is why I would only quibble with you when you write that

On one level this is obviously true - because all thought is based on memories that have been created in response to some actual event (an experience involving sense-perception). However, in another sense thinking not only responds to real events in the world (or in ourselves, in consciousness), but thinking also creates merely apparent realities which it then responds to - as in a loop. For example, thinking creates nations, and then responds to that creation as though it were a reality independent of thought. And more subtly, we know that this is true of the ego too: thought has created an apparently real entity called “ego” or “self”, and then responds to that created entity as though it were a reality existing independent of thought.

All this creates immense confusion in ourselves, and in the world.

These are important questions, which require further digging - so I don’t intend to supply a complete answer here. I’m just exploring the topic. But wouldn’t one possible approach to the first of your questions be that thinking has formed these self-images through a process of not-seeing? That is, intelligence or attention was not in operation when these images first formed, and so thought didn’t know that what it was doing was incoherent. Thought merely found some (psychological) security in these images, which it then invested with emotion and various physiological stimulants, hormones, electro-chemical inducements, etc. So that when these images are questioned, the brain itself kicks up an electro-chemical fuss, because its (thought-created) security is being threatened. This defensive mechanism keeps the process going indefinitely.

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Dear James,
when I use words like deeper, I am not using them in a judgemental way, judging you or your writing. I just use them in the way that I have the feeling that we have to dig deeper. Moreover when I wrote “Thinking is only a response to something which exists” I not only meant a person, a tree, the earth, something externally but also everyything inwardly.

Thinking creates the I, the self and therefore the I, the self exists. It is thinking and thinking, thoughts exist. If thinking responds to the self, the self has to exist. Which it does, but it is just thinking and we mistakenly “think” it is an independent entity. But it is only thinking. Again, thinking can only think about something and therefore whatever it thinks about has to exist, outwardly or inwardly. And whatever the content of thinking might be, outwardly or inwardly, it is never the real, the actual, whatever that may be. The content of thinking is like a photograph. And a photograph about you or anything else is never you or anything else.

You say, intelligence was not in operation and that thought started looking for psychological security. But that means that thinking already was more important than the real, the fact that the content of thought is never the real. What leads us to believe that we can ever find psychological security and to find it in thinking? It is an assumption, a conclusion, which is still thinking. And did we find in thinking actual security? We do not otherwise we would not have nations and religions etc. Might it be, that the moment we face this fact, and a fact in general, we do not know what has to be done or could be done? And as long as we cling to thinking do we not have the feeling that we know and are under control of life and particularly of our life?

If we face the fact about thinking, would we not see that everything we think, no matter what, is never that we think about? Is never the real? And would it not be an immense shock because it leaves us with nothing to hold on inwardly and in relation between us and the world around us except in handling physical things? Moreover you say it is an endless cycle in which we are caught and which is just thinking. I agree. And also thinking itself cannot break it because it is the creator and the fuel of this cycle. So can we see that fact? And what does it mean to see it ? To actually be in touch with the fact? Would it not mean to have no image about it but to percieve what is and what we are?

We are just thinking which leads to all the misery in the world. Would seeing the fact and remain with it not be the change? Thinking is only a response to something which exists. But if the ground for thinking is thinking itself, the self, the I, then thinking springs out of images and not out of the real, the actual and facts. It springs out of an illusion, that exists. But the nature of an illusion is, that its content is purely fictional, just created by thought without any relation to reality. Then thinking must cause problems. Otherwise it is just a useful tool we devloped to survive and nothing more.

But again, these are all just words, just written down thoughts which are not the real. Can we actually “see” that? Best wishes, Erik